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What is Palliative Care for Children and Young People?

WHO Definition of Palliative Care for Children

  • Palliative care for children is the active total care of the child's body, mind and spirit, and also involves giving support to the family.
  • It begins when illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease.
  • Health providers must evaluate and alleviate a child's physical, psychological, and social distress.
  • Effective palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited.
  • It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centres and even in children's homes.


Palliative care for children represents a special, albeit closely related field to adult palliative care.

Children’s palliative care is an emerging speciality which has many similarities to adult palliative care but also some distinct differences, not least because children’s palliative care is often provided by staff trained in paediatrics, with knowledge of the specific needs of children with a wide range of rare and complex conditions.  Children’s palliative care often extends over many years, from the point of diagnosis and involves a multitude of professionals and services that need to work together to meet the child’s developmental, social, spiritual, medical and nursing needs as well as providing support for their family.

Children’s palliative care is increasingly being recognised as a distinct specialty, but we are still a long way from it being provided equitably and sustainably across Europe. Children and families are therefore missing out on essential care and support.

A Paediatric Task Force has been established within the EAPC to address the specific needs of those supporting children, young people and their families facing a shortened life expectancy.

You can find out more about this Taskforce here If you are interested in joining the EAPC paediatric network please email

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